A Quick Bible Study Vol. 194: Handel’s Messiah and The Bible

A Quick Bible Study Vol. 194: Handel’s Messiah and The Bible

Thanks for joining us as we enter the Christmas Season anticipating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ — except in Bethlehem, where (newsflash) Christmas has been canceled. To compensate, let’s double-deck the halls with boughs of holly and buy every Chinese-made dripping icicle light package so aliens will see your home from space. Yes, it’s sparkle season! However, your humble Bible study writer plans to “sparkle your soul” with four weeks of light-filled, non-commercial Christmas-themed studies.

We begin by discussing “Messiah” — 1742’s hit musical, still streaming after all these centuries. For the record, I am the number one fan of Handel’s masterpiece. Ever since cell phones had ringtones, the Hallelujah Chorus has been mine. I always crack up when, in an off-off Christmas month, heads turn when my phone rings in a public space.

Today, adding some gravitas to our study, we are honored to have Jerry Newcombe as a guest co-writer. Jerry, who loves “Messiah” as much as I do, has authored or co-authored 33 books about faith, history, the founding fathers, and how all are intertwined.

I recently met Jerry and told him that one of his famous books, “What If Jesus Had Never Been Born?” was a favorite I had often linked to and recommended. That influential book is one of the 19 Jerry co-authored with his long-time writing partner, the late great minister D. James Kennedy.

Jerry is the executive director of Providence Forum, a division of D. James Kennedy Ministries with a mission to “preserve, defend and advance the Judeo-Christian values of our nation’s founding.” Let’s give Jerry a warm yuletide welcome! He wrote:

“I have heard that the opening lines of the Messiah’s Hallelujah Chorus are the world’s most recognizable piece of music. There’s something deeply touching about what I think is Handel’s greatest work — a great zenith of Western civilization. The libretto of Messiah consists of 73 verses from the King James Version of the Bible — 42 from the Old Testament, 31 from the New. All point to Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ —  the Anointed One — the Messiah.”

Later, we review some of those verses. But first, here is some little-known and inspiring history about Handel and the circumstances surrounding his writing of Messiah that Jerry wants you to know:

“In his book, ‘Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers,’ Patrick Kavanaugh tells how Handel barely ate during the 24 days he wrote Messiah. At one point, the composer had tears in his eyes and cried out to his servant, ‘I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.’ Handel had just finished writing the Hallelujah Chorus.”

Here is a factoid about Messiah that I found surprising. A reminder about how the Lord can turn our dark days into light that can impact the world forever and ever. Jerry wrote:

“Amazingly, Messiah came at a time in his life when the 56-year-old Handel was facing bankruptcy and complete failure. Also, some Church of England authorities were apparently critical of him and his work. Handel seemed all washed up with his best days behind him.”

Again, Jerry quotes from Patrick Kavanaugh’s book, “ ‘By 1741, Handel was swimming in debt. It seemed certain he would land in debtor’s prison.’ But writing Messiah proved to be the positive turning point in his life.”

I love that story! It presents a lesson for us. Even during our darkest days, if we work hard to glorify God with our lives and talents, we please Him, and He will guide our path. However, often, we don’t think or know that we are pleasing Him until He unexpectedly showers us with or shows us something that only He could provide — then we understand. Jerry continues:

“Messiah was first performed in Dublin in 1742. It was a benefit concert for charity. According to one source, proceeds freed 142 men from debtors’ prison.

“A year later, King George II was present at the first performance of Messiah in London. It is said that the monarch fell asleep, and at the opening of the Hallelujah Chorus, he rose to his feet, thinking it was his cue. Whatever the reason, he stood, which has been the custom ever since — to stand during the Hallelujah Chorus.

“Handel’s masterpiece, now a Christmas and Easter tradition, was written for a greater purpose for his hearers: ‘I should be sorry if I only entertained them. I wish to make them better.’ ”

Coupled with its magnificent music, Messiah’s lyrics are Bible verses that make us “better” because they penetrate our hearts and souls where the Lord dwells within us. Here are a few:

“I know that my redeemer liveth…” (Job 19:25).

“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people…” (Isaiah 40:1).

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…” (Isaiah 9:6).

 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion…” (Zechariah 9:9).

 “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

“All we like sheep have gone astray…” (Isaiah 53:6).

“Lift up your heads, O ye gates…” (Psalm 24:7).

“And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed…” (Isaiah 40:5).

“Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth…” (Revelation 19:6).

If you are moved to read Messiah’s verse references line-by-line, click here.

Since Messiah is so pleasing to hear anytime, but especially this time of year, Jerry suggested I link to a Messiah “Hallelujah Chorus” flash mob video from a shopping mall food court in 2010. After watching, you will understand why Handel wrote, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.” (And maybe you will, too.)

The comments from some of the 56 million viewers are a special bonus. This one spoke to me about the truth of Handel’s previous quote:

“I’m a full-fledged atheist, and this song gives me chills up my spine and goosebumps all over! I love watching this video every year at Christmas.”

Thanks to my co-writer Jerry Newcombe. We hope you learned something new about  “Messiah” — its biblical message and music — that brought you some Christmas cheer. Most important is recognizing that what you are hearing is Christ’s love. Amen! Hallelujah! — which Jerry informs me is “Praise the Lord” in Hebrew.

Myra Kahn Adams is a conservative political and religious writer with numerous national credits. Her book, “Bible Study For Those Who Don’t Read The Bible,” reprints the first 56 volumes of this popular study. “Part 2,” with the same title, reprints Vols. 57-113. Order it here.   

Myra is also the Executive Director of SignFromGod.org and the National Shroud of Turin Exhibit. Both are educational donorsupported ministries dedicated to building a permanent Shroud of Turin exhibit in Washington, D.C. Visit the life-sized Shroud replica in D.C. Contact: MyraAdams01@gmail.com.

Myra Kahn Adams

Myra Kahn Adams

Myra Kahn Adams is a media producer and political writer. She was on the 2004 Bush campaign's creative team and the 2008 McCain campaign's ad council. Writing credits include, National Review, Washington Examiner, World Net Daily, Breitbart and many others. Contact Myra at MyraAdams01@gmail.com


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